Since entering the market economy, China has proved to be staunchly pragmatic, ranking first among the world’s most dynamic and thriving economies, while retaining a political regime which is, to say the least, authoritarian. The intensification of China’s presence on the continent of Africa in recent years is an illustration of this, as is the increasingly marked use of its Muslim minority to strengthen its commercial links with the Arab world. How it does so is described for us here by Jacques Varet.
He shows, in particular, how the Chinese authorities progressively created areas of (admittedly still heavily controlled) religious freedom among the Hui minority, so as to make the autonomous region in which they are the majority community, Ningxia, an economic and commercial shop-window. Investing heavily in the region, the Chinese government has set about an enormous project of modernizing Ningxia, bringing to centre stage the advantages of a “Muslim China” and using this very skilfully to attract or reinforce economic and commercial cooperation with the Islamic world from the Western Mediterranean to Micronesia, by way of Africa and South-East Asia.